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“The Tale of Desperaux” and Forgiveness Day

Author Ramona Caponegro
Air Date 8/4/2005

“The Tale of Desperaux” and Forgiveness Day Transcript

Brief Sound Clip:

This description of reconciliation comes from Kate DiCamillo’s novel The Tale of Despereaux, winner of the 2004 John Newbery Medal, but the sentiment is shared by all of those who participate in International Forgiveness Day, which is held each year on the first Sunday of August. Created by the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance, a non-denominational group that “promote[s] forgiveness as a way of creating a safer, more joyful and peaceful world,”1, yearly celebrations of the power of this virtue have spread to various US cities, like Seattle, Dallas, and Portland, as well as to other countries, like France, Nigeria, and Argentina. This annual event provides a wonderful opportunity for discussing with children the idea of reconciliation. In some places, this conversation has taken written form: in 2003, a poetry and essay contest on the subject was sponsored for kindergarten through twelfth grade students in San Francisco. In yet another initiative, kids and adults alike are currently encouraged to nominate “Heroes of Forgiveness,” people they know who have changed their own lives through these acts of compassion and whose stories are an inspiration to others 2.

If children are looking for fictional “Heroes of Forgiveness”to inspire them, however, they cannot do better than to meet Kate DiCamillo’s Despereaux Tilling, an “exceptionally large-eared, extremely unlikely hero,” who also happens to be a mouse 3. But Despereaux is not quite like any other mouse. He loves books and music, not foraging for crumbs, and he believes that “the sacred, never-to-be-broken rules of conduct for being a mouse,” specifically avoiding humans, are worth breaking, at least for the love of his life, the human Princess Pea 4. Betrayed by his own father for these crimes against the mouse community, Despereaux is consigned to the dungeon, and his father, the drummer for the Mouse Council, even beats out the death march that is meant to send Despereaux to his doom. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, except to say that Despereaux manages to survive, and upon seeing his father again, Despereaux applies a lesson that is very much in keeping with the spirit of International Forgiveness Day when he speaks the words that will offer them both a chance at healing.

Brief Sound Clip:


1 “Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance.” Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance.
2 “The Criteria for a Heroes [sic] of Forgiveness is as follows.” Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance.
3 DiCamillo, Kate. The Tale of Despereaux. Book jacket. Cambridge: Candlewick Press, 2003.
4 —. The Tale of Despereaux. Cambridge: Candlewick Press, 2003. 54.

Posted in Holidays, Literature